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Aidan Niles
Lewis and the Mystery of the Missing Bones
Aidan Niles, author

Middle Grade; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

Lewis is a rescue dog who likes to watch mystery shows with his boy, Nicholas. When his friend, Ed, is accused of stealing the local pack leader’s bones, Lewis takes the opportunity to solve the mystery of the missing bones and prove his friend’s innocence. He enlists the help of Whiskers, a cat, and a rather obtuse squirrel named Phil. After a number of red herrings including raccoons, chicken bones, and drones, Lewis puts the clues together and realizes the bones were tossed in the trash by Buster’s people. His journey ends with solving the mystery, proving his friend’s innocence, and having made new friends to help him on his path to being a doggy detective.
Niles’s debut middle grade mystery novel, first in the Doggy Detective series, is a delight bursting with adorable characters and fun situations. Lewis and Ed are both rescue dogs living with different families. Every week, their people take them to the dog park, where they get the chance to socialize and run with the pack. All is well until, one day, Buster, the large Saint Bernard, accuses Ed of stealing his beloved stash of bones—and turns the rest of the dogs at the park, save for Lewis, against him. Lewis, with the assistance of Whiskers, the cat living with Ed, and several other friends, must discover the truth about the errant bones before bullying Buster makes Ed’s life miserable.

Told from Lewis’s perspective, the book does a lovely job weaving engaging themes through the fabric of the plot. The most obvious is Buster’s bullying of Ed over what appear to be false accusations. Because Buster is the leader of the pack, all of the other dogs fall into line behind him, shunning Ed. Following that, there’s an excellent sequence illustrating how friendship and acts of kindness go a long way toward making others feel welcome and included. Colorful illustrations provide charming visuals, with the animals’ expression—especially a tuft-cheeked skunk—bringing the cast to life.

The level of adorableness remains consistent throughout, and the case, in classic detective-story fashion, allows for the introduction of a host of memorable characters from all walks of life. The simplistic style works well, for the most part, though the pacing slows toward the middle, and more exploration of Ed and Lewis’ time in the shelter would help demystify the experience. An easy book for young readers and an excellent one for caregivers to read aloud, the adventures of Lewis and friends will surely delight and have children asking for more.

Takeaway: This doggy mystery will charm the middle-grade set.

Comparable Titles: P.J. Gardner’s Horace & Bunwinkle, Carolyn Crimi’s Secondhand Dogs.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A